Experiencing Film Space: Responding to Surface and Depth

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPresentation


E. H. Gombrich defines texture as ‘the way light behaves when it strikes a particular surface’ (1962, 38). Light thus reveals the tactile qualities of a surface, and in doing so evokes a response to the contact of light and surface, how it makes us feel both sensorially and emotionally. In this way, we can be alerted to texture through looking as well as touching. Gombrich’s definition indicates the way cinema, itself a medium of light, reveals texture and invites us to be responsive to the surfaces depicted onscreen.

This paper will explore how the realization of space in Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958) invites responsiveness from bodies onscreen and off. In order to consider the nature of the affective relationships concerning space, and particularly those concerning bodily responsiveness to space, discussion will focus on two central components of dimensional space: surface and depth. Vertigo is an instructive example for the manner in which it presents interactions between surface and depth to create illusions of reality which simultaneously reveal artificiality and constructedness. Through attention to the affective relationships between bodies and the spaces they inhabit, I will explore the manner in which films offer us fully formed sensorial fictional worlds, what makes on-screen space material.

Texture in Film, University of St Andrews
Period9 Mar 2013
Event titleExperiencing Film Space: Responding to Surface and Depth
Event typeOther


  • texture
  • film affect
  • materiality
  • embodiment
  • film design
  • Vertigo